Whenever we hear the word sugar, the first thing that comes to mind is unhealthy. Are these claims true?
For a long time, sugar has been an integral part of our diets. It has a major role in providing the human body with the energy to function. It can either be present in the natural form such as starches in grains and lactose in milk or can be added in food preparations in forms such as white sugars, cane sugars, maple syrup, etc. Our body has a tendency to slowly digest natural sugar, due to the presence of fibres and other nutrients in the food, whereas added sugar, also known as ‘Refined Sugar’ is the remains of natural sugar, which is refined, resulting in its rapid digestion and absorption, which leads hunger pangs or does not keep the stomach full for a long time.
India has observed a tremendous increase in the consumption of white sugar in the year 2020, which was estimated to be 19.6 kilograms per capita per year. The number has been increasing over the past few years. Is it healthy to consume this much sugar? According to FDA, the recommended sugar intake should not be more than 10% of the daily calorie requirement. WHO (World Health Organization) also states that, for an adult with a normal BMI, the sugar intake should not be more than 6 teaspoons or 25 gm.
High sugar consumption has been associated with increased incidences of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart ailments, and other metabolic disorders. Here, the question arises, how does sugar cause all these health problems?
The sugar intake causes the blood sugar level to rise which results in the release of insulin, a pancreatic hormone, for the uptake of glucose in the bloodstream by the body’s cells for its energy production. But if there is an excess of glucose in the bloodstream, the body uses only the amount of glucose that is required for its energy production and the extra glucose is converted to fat which is stored inside our body. This process of accumulation of fat in the body can cause overweight or obesity over some time. Obesity has been linked to all major health issues such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, etc. High blood sugar levels can also hinder regular bodily functions leading to poor sleeping habits, impaired cognitive function, depression, reduced immunity, and poor concentration.
Refined sugar is added to foods such as cakes, aerated drinks, chocolates, candies, etc. These foods have low or negligible amounts of protein, fibre, or other essential nutrients. Thus they provide empty calories with no nutritional value, which can delay satiety and cause overeating leading to weight gain.
How to identify such foods? As a consumer, it is crucial to understand the food product before purchasing or consuming them. It is important to read the food product labels and understand their claims. Following are some points which can help in understanding the food product:
- Look for total sugar and added sugar content. It can help us understand the amount of sugar that is added during the production process.
- Understand the ingredient list, look for ingredients like maltodextrins, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, maltase, fruit juice concentrate, dextrose, molasses, etc. If the label says “no added sugars,” it should not contain any of them, although the food may contain naturally occurring sugars (such as the lactose in milk). Study the order of ingredients, as they are written from high to low amounts. When sugar is at the top of the list, it has been added in a large amount.
How can one completely avoid sugar consumption? Here are a few tips on how to avoid these added sugar:
- Avoiding foods with high sugar content such as packaged juices, sugary desserts, etc.
- Consume whole foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, etc. these foods are not processed and refined and have added more nutritional value to the diet.
- Adding more fibre and protein to the diet can help reduce hunger pangs and promote satiety. This will help eliminate sugar cravings.
- Good sleeping habits, regular exercise, and a balanced diet are all part of maintaining a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
Now is the time! Join us for the #SmitSaysQuit month and take the first step towards your sugar detox journey.